October 27, 2008

The Frumian Candidate

David Frum isn’t exactly bailing ship, though he has announced that McCain?s chances of taking the White House are close to nil and that the GOP should focus its energies on holding onto some Senate seats and shift its message towards warning of the dangers of one-party rule in Washington.

All this sounds reasonable, though Frum?s interpretation of why the GOP is in a hole speaks much to the delusional state of the neocons at the moment:

[I]n August, McCain tried a bold new gambit: He would reach out to independents and women with an exciting and unexpected vice presidential choice.

That didn’t work out so well either. Gov. Sarah Palin connected with neither independents nor women. She did, however, ignite the Republican base, which has come to support her passionately. And so, in this last month, the McCain campaign has Palinized itself to make the most of its last asset. To fire up the Republican base, the McCain team has hit at Barack Obama as an alien, a radical and a socialist.

Sure enough, the base has responded. After months and months of wan enthusiasm among Republicans, these last weeks have at last energized the core of the party. But there’s a downside: The very same campaign strategy that has belatedly mobilized the Republican core has alienated and offended the great national middle, which was the only place where the 2008 election could have been won.

Essentially in agreement with David Brooks and others, Frum thinks the problem is Palin, an anti-intellectual cancer that?s driving away urban professionals.

Yes, McCain?s ploy of using Palin to woe Hillary supporters?remember the governor?s ?glass ceiling? comments when she was introduced??has failed miserably. Still, looking at the RCP averages, since the day after Palin got the nod (Aug. 31), McCain?s numbers have dropped 0.7 percentages points. Barack Obama has gained 2.7 points; however, this seems to be more a case of voters grasping for a liberal Democrat in tough economic times than people running away from lady from Wasilla.

The GOP?s problems are far bigger than Palin, and they begin with the fact that McCain?s name is still at the top of the ballot.

For all of the “realism” he?s been touting, I wonder if at some dark night of the soul, Frum admits to himself that in John McCain the GOP has nominate the ultimate Frumian candidate?from his avoidance of the culture war to his talk of the ?transcendent challenge? and moral clarity on “evil” (even if he doesn’t quite promise to “end” it) to his ?pragmatic,? ?bipartisan? policies on the environment which Frum recommended in Comeback and more. McCain is far more Frumian than even George W. Bush, whom the patriotic conservative once called ?the right man.? 2008 has been Frum?s moment, though he doesn?t seem to be enjoying it.

I wonder, too, if the GOP and conservative movement might one day collectively wonder whether this Frum guy is actually that helpful in crafting a conservative ideology “that can win again”..

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